Years Pro: 7
Status: Has one year remaining on his contract, at his option.
Key Stats: Averaged 10.6 points on 45 percent shooting, and a career-best 82 percent from the foul line. Averaged 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
Given all the recent words surrounding Roy Hibbert's performance with the Pacers this past season, the numbers might surprise you.
The 86-inch enigma was better than in either of the previous two regular seasons if the stats are adjusted to a 36-minute-per-game appearance to remove the impact of minutes played. Still, Hibbert's status is in greater doubt than ever because of team president Larry Bird's post-season analysis and the plan to go with a smaller lineup and play at a faster tempo next season.
Hibbert's scoring average was the lowest since his rookie season in 2008-09 and his field goal percentage the second-lowest of his career, better only than last season. Coach Frank Vogel was quick to point out the minutes-played factor and defended his work ethic, but Bird was blunt.
"I didn't think he played that well," Bird said. "He always played hard. He's very durable. But I don't think he had a great year."
When his stats are extrapolated over 36 minutes, Hibbert's season doesn't seem so bad. He averaged 15 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks – two points and two rebounds better than last season's adjusted numbers, and nearly identical to two seasons ago.
PHOTO GALLERY: Roy Hibbert's 2014-15 Season »
Hibbert's latest stats pale, however, when compared to those of the 2013 postseason, when the Pacers took Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. In 19 playoff games, he averaged 17 points on 51 percent shooting, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while playing an average of 36.5 minutes. That raised the expectations of fans, who hoped that level of performance would become his norm. But he finished poorly in the 2013-14 season, and was inconsistent this past season despite having every opportunity to excel when injuries depleted the lineup.
The Pacers' final home game against Washington summarized Hibbert's recent inconsistency. He had hit just 1-of-17 shots in the first three games against the Wizards, and missed all five shots through the first three quarters of the fourth one. But, after re-entering the game midway through the fourth quarter, he was a terror, diving into the Wizards' bench for a loose ball, tipping in a missed foul shot and showing the kind of hustle that too often had been lacking. Over the game's final 18 minutes, he contributed six points, six rebounds, a blocked shot and inspiring hustle.
He had several notable efforts throughout the season: 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks in the season-opener against Philadelphia, 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks against Boston, 29 points against Utah, 16 points and 15 rebounds against Miami, 18 points and 11 rebounds against Charlotte – and those were all in the first 12 games. In those games, in fact, he averaged 14 points and 8.3 rebounds.
He was injured in the 13th game against Phoenix, and sat out the next four games. His production then dropped as the team's health improved and he had fewer scoring opportunities, although he did have double-doubles in three consecutive April games as the Pacers made their desperate lunge for the playoffs.
Attributing Hibbert's statistical decline to a decline in playing time (4.4 minutes per game fewer than the previous season) doesn't tell the complete story, however. He played less for a reason. Despite working with Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over the summer, he couldn't become a consistent scoring threat around the basket. And, after finishing runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013-14, he was less effective defensively. His blocked shots have dropped each of the past two seasons, and his size prevents him from being able to defend well on the perimeter. That led to more playing time for Ian Mahinmi, which led to the drop in Hibbert's stats.
All in all, he hasn't maintained the level of play that made him a two-time All-Star, and seems less self-assured than a couple of seasons ago.
"With Roy a lot of times it's confidence," Bird said. "I think he's got the talent. He gets down on himself and worries about a lot of things that have nothing to do with the way he plays. If he just goes out there and plays, he's a lot better. But he did not have the season he probably wanted, that we wanted, so we have to build on that, and when he comes back try to do things that put him in position to be successful."
Once a cooperative post-game interview, Hibbert vowed at the start of training camp to talk less this season, apparently to avoid the kind of statements that had drawn unwanted attention in the past. He stayed true to that promise, for the most part. He did not talk with reporters after the final regular season game at Memphis, and has not been heard from since Bird's postseason comments.
It's difficult to imagine him passing up the final year of such a lucrative contract, but he faces a dilemma. Does he return to a team that might play him off the bench, thus damaging his future marketability? Become a free agent and start over elsewhere for less money? Or, hope for a trade to a team that would provide a fresh start and a better fit?
Regardless, he appears headed for an interesting summer.
Editor's Note: Roy Hibbert, Rodney Stuckey, and Shayne Whittington were not available for season review interviews due to scheduling conflicts.
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